Murder!

Murder is a horribly strong and hateful word: taking life by unlawful means …

Sadly, murder is an action far too prevalent in today’s world and it has stood the test of time despite being so infamous. I’d say murder is a passionate action even though the description, cold-blooded, often accompanies it. I don’t agree. The person that commits murder does it for a reason that either thrills/avenges/(place action here); murder is driven by a feeling that is so rooted in that person’s essence that logic and empathy do not come into play whether it is premeditated or in the heat of the moment.

Thankfully, passion is an emotion that is worth having in life; unlike murder. Passion can make life worth living; it drives us to attain goals, to live a fulfilled life, and have meaningful relationships. Passion—and what results—can make headlines. Whether they are good or evil ultimately comes down to which course we choose to follow. And when those lines cross it can be disturbing for those that are on the sidelines.

My Italian parents believed in living their lives passionately. They recognised the appealing nature it had to others, and they built a reputation on this attractive characteristic in the boutique fashion business they created in Rhodesia in the 1950s and 60s. Little did they know that when they took their fashions up north to the Belgian Congo, as it was known in 1960, the cross-cultural business relationship they were embracing was part of a front to cover up political intrigue that would involve Moise Tshombe, Godefroid Munongo, and Patrice Lumumba. A power struggle soon erupted in the Belgian Congo, and just nine months after their visit, they would hear the dreadful news of a murder. Extract from Ciao! We’re in Africa:

Murder!
Murder!

It’s the start of 1961, and Eugenio breaks the shocking news: “Lumumba’s been assassinated.”

“Oh, that’s just dreadful,” I exclaim.

“He and two ministers were travelling to Katanga. There’re rumours that Munongo was involved in the group that beat them up. Then, they were shot by a firing squad.”

“Munongo? The man that invited us to Elizabethville? The man we had tea with?”

Eugenio’s face is serious as he looks across at me and slowly nods.

I’m stunned and saddened at the same time. “What a way to start 1961. Those poor people in the Congo. I’m never going back there, Eugenio.”

“Attitudes are changing towards the black people, Iucci. The American Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Governor Williams made a speech in Nairobi. He said, ‘Africa is for the Africans.’ That’ll cause a few reactions.”

I’m reminded of the ‘Africa is for Africans’ comment just a few weeks later when we meet some Italian shop owners, who’ve just arrived in the country from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Anna and Gianni Moccagatta open a shoe shop called Italian Styles. It’s located just fifty metres up the road from our shop.

Within minutes of them coming around to introduce themselves, Anna regales us with their story. “With the attempted coup d’état in December, I said to Gianni, Non possiamo piu’ rimanere. We can no longer stay. The paradise we’ve been living in, it’s been snatched away by the Imperial Bodyguard who tried to overthrow the Emperor Haile Selassie. I no longer felt safe anymore.” She sighs dramatically.

I’ve already started to judge her, thinking, What a drama queen, when she reveals a humorous side that will be the start of a long friendship.

“Lo so. Faccio dramma fuori di tutto. I know. I make drama out of everything.” Reaching into her snakeskin brown bag, Anna pulls out a gold cigarette box. Inside are thin brown cheroots along with a brown-patterned cigarette holder. Attaching one cheroot to the holder, she leans forward to light it up with the flame from a square gold lighter that Gianni has produced.

Drawing deeply, she pronounces, “But, it’s such fun, darrrrling!” Her rolling ‘r’ is in an unusually deep feminine voice that’s accompanied by twinkling green eyes and a joyous burst of laughter.


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